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Rossello Proposes Strategies To Solve Status: 2-Step Referendum, Overturning The Insular Cases’ Doctrine…PIP Rejects Judicial Initiative…Calderon Defers Issue To Successor

Rossello Proposes Strategies To Solve Status

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello proposed Tuesday to solve Puerto Rico’s status issue by urging the U.S. Congress to take action on the island’s case after more than 105 years of political limbo.

The candidate for governor in 2004 would use the federal courts to challenge the condition of Puerto Rico residents, who are U.S. citizens but do not have the same rights as citizens residing in the 50 states.

With his proposal, Rossello again rejected the call for a constitutional assembly made by Gov. Sila Calderon last week.

"The constitutional assembly is an indirect mechanism and will depend on which party has predominance," said the statehood leader.

He added that the discussion of the status through the constitutional assembly will reduce the discussion to a battle among the parties, and that the political future of the island requires the total participation of the people in a truly open process.

The New Progressive Party leader said that for the first time in Puerto Rico, there is a consensus that the commonwealth status no longer serves the island well, and added that even commonwealth advocates have agreed that the political condition of Puerto Rico prevents its further economic and social development.

"There is a consensus among all Puerto Ricans and all political movements to go to the U.S. Congress together, and in agreement, demand a resolution of the status issue within the context of national [federal] and international law," said Rossello. He enumerated various decisions issued by the United Nations that established the condition of the island as a colony.

"The present political status does not serve Puerto Rico well, and it is necessary to change the island’s (political) paradigm with a new non-colonial and non-territorial option, excluding Puerto Rico from the U.S. Constitution’s Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2," Rossello added.

The statute establishes, among other things, that U.S. territories stay under the U.S. Congress’ plenary powers indefinitely, something that according to Rossello, was questioned by Judge Juan Torruellas in his decision in Igartua de la Rosa v. USA (known as Igartua II), in which the plaintiff residing in Puerto Rico requested the right to vote for the U.S. president. According to Torruellas, if the legislative branch does not take action, then the judicial system is entitled to rule on what Congress ought to be doing.

Rossello’s two-step strategy includes a "yes or no" Puerto Rican Unity Referendum, in which the people will decide whether or not to request that the U.S. Congress and the president "provide Puerto Ricans with an electoral method to choose the political relationship with the United States from political non-colonial or non-territorial options."

The local referendum would be held in 2005 if Rossello is elected governor in the 2004 general elections. The people’s request would then be handled by the 109th U.S. Congress, which he expects would take action before 2008.

Rossello acknowledged that the U.S. Congress does not have interest in dealing with the status of the island, but said that if the people of Puerto Rico demand action, they will make the request a priority.

He added that statehooders, as well as people following other ideologies, must be receptive to what the U.S. Congress offers but mentioned that any proposal made by the federal government must not have a territorial or colonial status.

The former governor acknowledged that the U.S. Congress might react negatively toward statehood for Puerto Rico due to the deterioration of the relationship between the local and federal governments. But he ruled out the possibility that the U.S. Congress might not confer statehood to Puerto Rico because 37 jurisdictions became states of the nation after the original 13 colonies.

The second step of his proposal includes a final referendum in which Puerto Ricans will vote for the political option of their preference. Rossello said Congress might present the political options to the Puerto Rico or the local political parties might present the options to the Congress.

He mentioned that contrary to legislative initiatives such as the Young Bill and the Johnston efforts, the request of the people will have more power before the Congress.

On the other hand, Rossello envisions suing the federal government to rule out the doctrine of the separate and unequal, which is widely documented by the Supreme Court in the Insular Cases, where jurisprudence limits the degree of privileges and immunities conferred to U.S. citizens overseas, and which does not confer all the rights entitled to U.S. citizens to those residing outside the country.

Rossello compared this territorial doctrine established by the courts with the U.S. apartheid in the mid-1900s and said the legal actions would be parallel with efforts in Congress to urge the federal government to take action on Puerto Rico’s status.

"After more than 105 years, we have been under this doctrine, and it is time to contest this situation, and I am sure that everybody will conclude that this (the doctrine established by the Insular Cases) has been an unfortunate chapter in the history of civil rights in the United States," said Rossello.

Rossello: Solving Island’s Status Benefits Puerto Ricans

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

July 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

If the U.S. Supreme Court abolishes the Insular Cases’ doctrine in the same way it overruled racial segregation in 1954, Puerto Ricans would benefit from the rights entitled to U.S. citizens, but do not currently enjoy because they live outside the 50 states.

That is the scenario former Gov. Pedro Rossello intends to create with his proposal to solve the colonial status of Puerto Rico, demanding urgent action from the U.S. Congress while contesting the federal laws regarding U.S. territories in court.

Rossello made his proposal Tuesday, claiming that is it time for Puerto Ricans to enjoy the same privileges their fellow citizens have on the mainland. In his status plan, the former governor advocated an open process of dialog, in which Puerto Ricans must participate actively and not through a representative such as the mechanism proposed by Gov. Sila Calderon in the form of a constitutional assembly.

Rossello explained that if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that territorial segregation is unconstitutional, in the same way it did with racial segregation in Brown v. Department of Education, then Congress might only offer statehood or the incorporated territory option to Puerto Rico under the U.S. Constitution.

According to Rossello, there is a consensus among political organizations to reject the incorporated territory option, as well as the commonwealth, which is the present political status of the island.

He said this fact would represent a starting point for the decolonization of Puerto Rico, since Congress has repeatedly said that before returning to the federal sphere, political parties on the island must come to an agreement about what the options should be.

The statehood advocate explained that Puerto Ricans would also have independence and free association as political options, but those political formulas would not guarantee the present rights of Puerto Ricans under the U.S. Constitution.

The Insular Cases doctrine is a jurisprudence established by U.S. courts during the first decade of the 20th Century, including a recent presidential vote request lawsuit filed by a Puerto Rican in Iguartua de la Rosa v. USA, which limits the degree of the immunities and privileges granted by the federal constitution to U.S. citizens living in U.S. territories.

Rossello expressed confidence that the legal disputes to claim equal rights for Puerto Ricans will work in the island’s favor, based, among other things, on the arguments of Rasmussen v. USA (1905), which established that U.S. citizens residing in a territory have the right to constitute themselves into a state.

The New Progressive Party leader emphasized that Hispanics have become an important minority group on the mainland, and Puerto Ricans might play a leading role among Hispanic voters there, which would be taken into consideration by federal politicians.

"Hispanics[voters are important] in the United States, now more than ever, and political parties on the mainland are aware of that. Now, they (political parties) are responding to Hispanics aspirations. That is a new condition for Hispanics, who now are seen as an asset for the nation, and not as something negative," he said.

Rossello noted that if the rights that many Puerto Ricans enjoy in the states are extended to the U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico, locals would represent 4 million citizens who do not participate in the political and electoral decisions of the mainland.

"I believe that if the political parties see 4 million new Hispanics who also are U.S. citizens, they will listen to what Puerto Ricans have to say," concluded Rossello.

Finally, Rossello acknowledged that Puerto Ricans must educate Congress on the island’s case in order to expedite and solve the status dilemma that has been delayed for over a century.

While he promised to head those efforts if elected governor in the 2004 general elections, he added "any governor has the responsibility of educating the federal government on the condition of Puerto Rico to achieve the proper response to the needs of the [island’s] people."

PIP: Judicial Avenue ‘Not Road To Follow’ On Status

By Leonardo Aldridge of Associated Press

July 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

The judicial avenue that former Gov. Pedro Rossello is proposing to deal with the political relations between the United States and Puerto Rico "is not the road to follow," Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Executive President Fernando Martin said Tuesday.

Martin insisted that the status issue should be worked out through a constitutional assembly and not via judicial avenues because during the 20th Century, the U.S. courts established "that they will not determine or award the island’s political destiny."

"And that is where Rossello’s proposal is leading. That is not the route to follow," he said.

Rossello announced in a press conference Tuesday that, if he wins the 2004 elections, he will begin a legal battle in U.S. courts to repeal the doctrine that was established in the United States after the Spanish American War of 1898 that allows the nation to have unincorporated territories under its jurisdiction without giving the same rights to its residents as it allows the people who live in the 50 states.

The former governor said a legal action to challenge this statute would open the doors to the final solution to Puerto Rico’s status.

However, Martin said "the final decision will not be made by the courts but in the political branches of government, which is the reason why the PIP proposes the constitutional assembly as a process method now and not after the elections."

Governor Postpones Status Issue Indefinitely

July 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Although Gov. Sila Calderon proposed a constituent assembly last week as the best mechanism to resolve the island’s political status, she said Tuesday that in what is left of her term, she will not hold a referendum on the options.

The governor said that in making the proposal, she only wished to open space to a new generation of politicians who would have to attend to the matter.

She also said that alternative is better for the people, since in her opinion, the political parties have proved ineffective when trying to resolve the status issue.

"I wanted to give to Puerto Rico the result of my reflection and how I strongly believe we should go to the people directly and not let the political parties kidnap Puerto Rico," said Calderon, as she clung to her priorities: creation of jobs, social justice, security, education, and health.

She stated that her proposal consists of three referendums for the island — one to decide support for the status assembly as a process mechanism, the second to choose the representatives for the assembly, and the third to ratify the organization.

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